The XDM 3.8 Part 3

The XDM 3.8 Part 3

The 1:1 Shooting Test begins

By Dennis Adler

For the most part, all that separates these two Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 pistols is what comes out of the muzzle and how that round is propelled. With gun powder vs. CO2, Air Venturi and Springfield have mastered the art of building a 1:1 blowback action pistols.

Doing a 1:1 shooting test between a centerfire pistol and its CO2 blowback action counterpart is always exciting, at least for those of us who shoot both cartridge and BB/pellet guns for sport or small arms training. It is often a mix of compromises going from CO2 to centerfire, but with the recent crop of blowback action models beginning last year, it has become more of a level playing field, except for report and recoil between gunpowder and air. The Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 has brought the same level of handling and authenticity to the game as the Sig Sauer WTP 1911, Umarex HK USP Blowback, ASG CZ75 SP-01 Shadow, Umarex S&W M&P40, and to a lesser extent, the Umarex Glock 17, (however the forthcoming Glock 17 Gen4 CO2 will be field strippable, which puts the Glock in the very same league as the Springfield XD Series of air pistols that are 1:1 in every respect, including exterior design and markings. For the moment, and things are changing monthly as to which gun is the most authentic, the XDM 3.8 Bi-Tone is, in my opinion, the No. 1 CO2 model in this rapidly expanding world of blowback action air pistols.

The Bi-Tone 3.8 is, in the opinion of some, a better-looking pistol, but Springfield Armory has chosen to drop the Bi-Tone (polished slide) from the XDM line, making the CO2 model a unique version. The centerfire XDM 3.8 in this article is the last Bi-Tone 9mm model.

Ammo vs. velocity and accuracy

Training with a perfect CO2 understudy, which is the best way to define the XDM 4.5 and 3.8 Series from Springfield Armory, is full emersion into practicing proper handling, sighting, trigger control, safety mechanism familiarity, loading and reloading and close quarter defensive shooting without an actual centerfire Springfield Armory XDM pistol.

Both the XDM 4.5 CO2 model (left) and 3.8 come with the current Springfield Armory black Melonite-type finish on the slide. With the 3.8 model’s extended capacity CO2 BB magazine design (same magazine as the 4.5 with the XD Gear grip extension covering the portion of the magazine extending below the actual the grip frame), the two CO2 models are the same height. The difference between the 3.8 and 4.5 is in frame, slide and barrel length, clearly shown in the face-to-face images. The centerfire models would look exactly the same.

Obviously, there can be no comparison of velocity between a 9mm cartridge and a .177 caliber steel BB propelled by a burst of compressed air, but in that respect you gain the advantages of quieter shooting (only equaled in centerfire with the addition of a noise suppressor), and greatly mitigated recoil from a CO2 model vs. a centerfire pistol (again without the aid of a noise suppressor which also greatly reduces felt recoil). Accuracy, on the other hand, taken within the context of learned shooting skills is comparable at certain distances, and with a Compact centerfire pistol (short barrel lengths under 4-inches) the defensive shooting distance is considered around 7 yards (21 feet) to 10 yards (30 feet), and with both the XDM 3.8 in 9mm and in .177 caliber, you are again on an equal footing.

In my initial test of the XDM 4.5 CO2 model (top) last March, it was revealed just how authentic the design of the Air Venturi Springfield Armory CO2 models was. The larger 4.5 version also topped out with an average velocity of 300 fps.

Last March, in my test of the XDM 4.5 CO2 model, it delivered an average velocity of 300 fps. This is on the lower end of the scale for the current mix of blowback action CO2 models which are in the 320 to 340 fps range. It is really not as big of a deal as it sounds, but on the other hand some new blowback CO2 models are hitting the 350 fps range with relative consistency.

Using CO2 to operate the 3.8 rather than the expanding gases of a 9mm cartridge, renders the same effect, sending the projectile downrange. With the forces of expanding gases from a centerfire cartridge the recoil system of the 9mm XDM (right) has to control the force of the slide being driven back after firing, while the CO2 model has to use up some of its CO2 charge from every shot to create the action of the slide being driven back. The weight of the 3.8’s alloy slide and modest resistance from the recoil spring must be overcome by the CO2. The net result is excellent feedback, but at the cost of velocity which hovers around 300 fps.

Moving the mass of the alloy slide to create the recoil of a cartridge firing pistol will consume a percentage of the power, especially when the firing system in the air pistol accurately replicates a centerfire pistol’s short-recoil, locked-breech, tilting barrel design, and is capable of being completely field stripped like the XDM. Going sideways for a second, if you look back at the Umarex Glock 17, which operates on a slightly different internal firing system (and thus one reason it cannot be field stripped), velocity was pushed up to 376 fps, an impressive number for any blowback action air pistol. So, where in these extremes between 300 fps and 376 fps, (which is solidly good out to 10 yards), does the XDM 3.8 model fall?

Where things begin to go their separate ways is when you begin loading the CO2 model, beginning with CO2. The base pad has a hole and an elongated button (arrow). The button must be depressed and the base pad pulled forward off the magazine…

…removing the base pad exposes the CO2 chamber. After unscrewing the seating cap, loading CO2 and replacing the seating cap tightened down with the enclosed hexagonal wrench, you have to slide the base pad cap back onto the magazine and make sure the button pops up into the locked position.

Loading BBs into the channel is a small chore even with the assist of the loading tool (lower right) used to grab the top of the small follower tab and pull it down compressing the follower spring below the wider opening in the channel. It is hard to hold down. The follower doesn’t lock down and has to be manually held in place while loading BBs. Patience and dexterity are the first order. The second order is at least two more magazines to load and have on hand when shooting.

The 3.8 sounds really good when it goes off and there’s a solid bump from the recoil of the slide; you know you pulled the trigger on a blowback action pistol. And the BBs slap into the target with tight groups at 21 feet (10 shots at just under an inch during the velocity test), but the chronograph tells me it is sending those accurately fired steel rounds downrange at an average of 300 fps (more like 295 fps to 299 fps with a high of 307 fps)! It doesn’t feel like it, doesn’t sound like it, but it is a 300 fps gun; right on that ragged edge for blowback action CO2 models with the XDS 4.5. That much feedback and operational authenticity can really draw down on velocity. It’s a tradeoff but with the XDS models, I think it’s a fair one.

Although this was not intended to be the shooting test, that comes next week, I put a 10-meter Air Pistol Target 21 feet downrange from the chronograph and aimed my velocity test shots through the chronograph at the target. I usually aim at a blank baffle box. My 10-shot velocity test group measured 0.95 inches from the 8 ring at about 8 o’clock and then up the center through the bullseye 10, 9, and 8 rings. It’s far from precision accuracy but a pretty tight group nonetheless.

In next week’s wrap up on the XDM 3.8, I will go into changing backstraps and head out to the centerfire range to put the CO2 model up against the 9mm at 7 and 10 yard distances firing at a B-27 cardboard silhouette target.

A word about safety

Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.

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